Martin Daubney explores the science and reality of porn in today’s society. Image courtesy of Channel 4.
Last night, Channel 4 aired the first controversial programme as part of its Campaign for Real Sex. Porn on the Brain was a film authored by Martin Daubney, ex-editor of lads’ mag Loaded. Pornography has received a lot of attention from the press of late, about the effects it could potentially have on our children and young people. Driven by this, and the fact that most children first see porn at age 10, Daubney set out to explore the science and reality of porn in today’s society.
Daubney acknowledges that when he was young, porn existed but you had to try extremely hard to get hold of it, and it was expensive. In today’s society, advances in technology and the internet mean that there is an increased availability of porn via social networks and smart phones. The young people that Martin meets tell him how porn is becoming unavoidable. For example, if their friend on Facebook comments on or ‘Likes’ an explicit video then the material becomes visible in their own news feed. It therefore seems that, whether or not you agree with the consumption of pornography, our freedom of choice about whether or not to consume it is being taken away. As such, children and young people are being exposed to this material whether they want to or not.
Schools are not obliged to teach anything more than the basic biology of sex and the dangers of having it. Thus, there are many questions that go unanswered, which leads young people to seek knowledge online. Gail Dines, author of Pornland, notes that when a young person types ‘porn’ into Google, they are “catapulted into a world of sexual violence, sexual cruelty…” Young boys and girls do not have their own experiences of sex to draw from and so this is their first introduction to sex. Dines argues that porn is “sexually traumatising” an entire generation of young people, and in particular, boys. Porn gives young boys a skewed version of sex. Dines notes that, essentially, young people are looking at hardcore porn for their sex education.
Daubney asks whether violent porn creates violence towards women and in her interviews with young women, Dines has noticed an increased level of violence in their sex lives, with partners wanting to act out scenes they have seen in pornography. It seems young men are getting their sexual cues from the men in porn. John Woods, at the Portman Clinic, admits that although there is difficulty proving the connection between violent imagery and violent behaviour, clinically he does see a connection – the young sex offenders that Woods sees are more and more likely to be compulsive porn users.
A young man called Callum (aged 19) is featured in the programme, and openly admits that he feels he is addicted to pornography. He describes the urge to obtain sexual satisfaction as a loss of control and says that porn has a “powerful grip on his life”. A particularly disturbing part of the programme is when Callum is driving along and sees a young girl walking down the street in hotpants and it triggers his desire for arousal and satisfaction. He quickly finds a place to stop and goes to a pub toilet to relieve himself. When asked what triggered him, he says, “It’s the little things in what [girls] wear and the way they walk, that does it.” Apart from getting in the way of day to day life, Callum’s obsession with porn affects his sex life. He talks about girls as sexual objects – the type of sex he has with them depends on “what they have to offer”. But he goes on to say that real sex is not as good as masturbating to porn, because the real girls aren’t as good as the porn stars – they lack confidence. In fact, Callum admits that he is annoyed because he doesn’t get the pleasure he thinks he should be getting with real girls. Every spare minute of Callum’s day is spent watching porn because it is right there at his fingertips – easily accessible and free to download on his mobile.
For me there are two issues that stand out in this programme that we must address. First of all, porn is everywhere – as already acknowledged by the Children’s Commissioner’s report and, as much as porn is becoming more extreme, it is the availability/accessibility of porn that is the problem. David Cameron has recently suggested a ‘porn filter’ for households in the UK, but this may not be as easy and feasible as it sounds and we can only do so much to prevent children seeing explicit material online. The second issue therefore, is to educate our children and young people so that i) they are not inclined to seek answers from pornography on the Internet, and ii) they are aware of pornography as a form of fantasy and not real life sex. It is with this, that I feel there needs to be a real push for pornography to be discussed openly and honestly, as part of our children’s sex and relationships education in schools. Parents must also take responsibility for talking to their children about porn, such that, when (and not if) they are exposed to it, they can see it for what it is.
For more information about the programme and advice about talking to children about pornography visit the Channel 4 website.
Calling for better sex and relationships education for children and young people is a key issue for Eyes Open Creative that will help in the wider fight against child sexual exploitation (CSE). My Dangerous Loverboy is a pioneering campaign from Eyes Open that aims to raise awareness and increase understanding of the sexual exploitation of children and young people.
If you work with children and young people aged 11+ the Love or Lies? education resource pack provides lesson plans and activities for one-to-one and group work to help educate young people about CSE.